I like the verb ‘se détendre’ in French, which has the various translations noted above in the title. I like the idea even better: me détendre, to release, to slacken, to relax. Let go. Calm down.
Have you noticed that a lot of academics do yoga? I’ve noticed. And I do yoga. A lot of yoga.
Yoga is hard but relaxing: the hardest part for me is the meditation, the mindfulnes, the being-in-the-moment, the observing my thoughts without becoming attached to them. Man. I can’t do that. Ask my teacher: I couldn’t keep my eyes closed in savasana for TWO YEARS. I’m a chronic insomniac, a champion worrier.
(“Hold on — is the plaster cracking on the ceiling? Is that just along the lathe, or is that along a joist line? Omigod, is my house structurally unsound? IS THE SECOND FLOOR GOING TO CAVE IN? Ommmmm.”)
(“Furthermore, what does interdisciplinarity really mean? Does it mean a work meets the standards of no disciplines? Or must meet the standards of several, simultaneously? If the former, how can we call this scholarship? If the latter, who can work hard enough to get it done? But it must! Think of the terrible warning of the geneticists and the evolutionary biologists!!!”)
I’m a little hepped up. A lot of academics are a little hepped up.
Over the course of many of my sleepless nights, I’ve given the matter some consideration. It seems to me that to think for a living–worse, to engage professionally in critical thinking–means carrying your work around with you everywhere. It’s hard to stop thinking. Or at least, to stop thinking about things that prevent you from sleeping / enjoying your leisure time / not boring your relatives with disquisitions on usage based billing and moral imperative of net neutrality.
Yeesh, self, give it a break until 9am tomorrow, okay?
Hence, my theory on why a lot of academics drink, quite heavily: it slows your thinking down. Personally, I like martinis.
My husband made me this one, and he put a straw in it so I could drink it in bed, while reading a yoga philosophy book. Double calm!
My other best way to calm down (when I’m not drinking or doing yoga, I guess) is comedy: I like to watch America’s Funniest Home Videos reruns every night on CMT. People falling down make me laugh, and laughing makes me calm.
So none of this has much to do with who I am as an academic. But. I’m a person too, right? And it’s good to remember that, to celebrate that, in its boozy zen chuckling quirkiness. And you’re people too, outside of your academic or para-academic or post-academic or supra-academic daytime identity.
So in the spirit of Friday, I ask: What do you do, when you’re not at work, to calm down, to let go, to slacken, to relax … pour te détendre?